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As the Allies Closed in on Hitler, They Jockeyed for Future World Dominance

June 5, 2020 in History

By Natasha Frost

One prize in the Allies’ race to take Berlin: the German scientists working to develop the atomic bomb.

In the final months of World War II, as Nazi Germany began to crumble, capturing Berlin had become the ultimate political and military prize. For the Allies—Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union—this was the chance to take the symbolic seat of Hitler’s expansionist, and genocidal, regime.

But there was another objective. Though much of Germany’s advanced research and development around atomic weaponry had by this point been evacuated to points outside the city, many of the nation’s greatest scientific minds remained in or around the capital. Harnessing their expertise might be the key to future world dominance—something both the Americans and the Soviets were keen to seize.

Who would be the victor, and at what cost? As the war wound down in early 1945, British and American forces began to close in on Berlin from the West, while Russia approached from the East. The Allies’ uneasy partnership was growing increasingly strained: This was not just a race for the city, so much as for the upper hand in the coming postwar world order. Two mighty nations were on the cusp of becoming opposing superpowers—whose ability to “drop the big one” drove the stakes for humanity ever higher.

READ MORE: The Secret World War II Mission to Kidnap Hitler’s A-Bomb Scientists

Eisenhower decides to forgo Berlin

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill lighting a cigar while staying at the Allied Headquarters in France with U.S. General Eisenhower, March 1945.

A year before, in early 1944, U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, had been all in on the idea of capturing the German capital: “Berlin is the main prize,” he wrote to his British counterpart, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. “There is no doubt whatsoever, in my mind, that we should concentrate all our energies and resources on a rapid thrust to Berlin.” But by the end of 1944, rapid Soviet advancement began to throw this objective into question. By early 1945, the Red Army was barely 40 miles out of Berlin. British-American forces, set back by the Battle of the Bulge in Ardennes, had yet to cross the Rhine.

In late March, even as British and American forces got closer, Eisenhower telegrammed Soviet Premiere Joseph Stalin to say Berlin was no longer …read more


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